Vote No on Proposition 36: Three Strikes Law

This is the seventh part of a series of posts analyzing California’s propositions:

A Tough Proposition

Proposition 36 is a tough proposition. There’s a strong case for voting yes on this proposition. Out of all the proposition recommendations made in this blog, this one is made with the most hesitancy.

Proposition 36 substantially weakens the Three Strikes Law. This is a famous tough-on-crime California law derived from another proposition (on a side note: there are way too many propositions out there). A serious or violent felon, if convicted of a new felony, gets twice the sentence. A two-time serious or violent felon, if convicted of a new felony, gets life. The Three Strikes Law is one of the toughest (if not the toughest) in the nation.

Under normal circumstances, this blog would unstintingly argue against voting yes on Proposition 36. Voters should never approve propositions that make big changes in subtle, complex things such as the length of prison sentences. Even if a change would be for the better, that is a job best left to the normal process. There is a reason why a legislature exists, after all: to draft laws. Legislators spend their entire lives on these issues. Voters spend a couple of hours or seconds reading a crazily complicated proposition that makes huge changes in the state. Generally, propositions on complex issues should only be approved if they fix a crisis.

Unfortunately, the normal way doesn’t work in this case. The legislature does not have the power to change the Three Strikes Law. This is because the proposition which approved the law explicitly prohibited this. So California voters are left in the unattractive position of deciding felony prison sentence lengths themselves.

There is also something quite wrong with California’s prison system, for which the description “crisis” would not be ill-fitted. They are famously overcrowded and a recent Supreme Court decision ordered California to reduce the population. The Three Strikes Law has certainly contributed to this negative situation. Finally, the proposition would save California several tens of millions of dollars per year – not something to laugh about during a budget crisis.

Nevertheless, there is also something good to say about the Three Strikes Law. California’s crime level over the past decade and a half has substantially decreased over the past two decades after the enactment of the law. Other states in the country have also followed California’s Three Strikes Law, and overall crime in the nation has been steadily declining for the past two decades. Of course, a number of other factors were behind this as well. But the Three Strikes Law’s aim was to reduce crime – and crime has indeed decreased.

More fundamentally, this proposition still would change the very complicated issue of felony prison sentences. That’s an issue that the vast majority of people are not qualified to deal with. The last clause definitely includes this blogger as well. That’s why this blog recommends a qualified “No” on Proposition 36.

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22 Responses to Vote No on Proposition 36: Three Strikes Law

  1. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for clearing that up for me. And it was a yes. And Prop 36 passed. I cant wait to see the changes it will make in peoples lives

  2. Gael N says:

    The three strikes law didn’t cause a decrease in crime. That’s coincidental. Crime dropped dramatically for the rest of the country as well. For a good analysis on all this you should read Freakanomics. While his main argument is that Roe v Wade was the main thing that caused the drop in crime he does pull apart arguments that new policies from Guiliani and Bill Clinton weren’t the drive to the drop in crime.

  3. ladybuginca says:

    I used to agree with tough on crime but no more. Courts and their tactics are corrupt. Their out for money. Their trials and sentences are unconstitutional. For instance a young man is accused of rape he denies so they tell him well if you say you had conceptual sex with the girl we won’t arrest you you won’t lose your job and we won’t have to bother your family after they turned up the heat but making up false statements and evidence. The guy under pressure of his life being ruined agrees then they turn around and use that against him by saying you did or the girl was under age he didn’t know but suggested he did. Then use that as evidence against him when there was none.
    Then they convict him unconstitutionaly because these threats are unconstitutional and the cohersed confession should have been thrown out because they ” made up” evidence. They make the hearing one sided turning twisting words. Then give the person enhanced sentences. That’s more than twice the amount which is considered just and unconstitunially crewel and unusual punishment. Then they put him at work sewing tax dependent road work jobs making a few cents a hour they profit on. How close to hitler do you need ro get to wake up. Since when to we put our ” perceived” safety over the constitution that sets us apart from tyranny. Our constitution is our freedom. Have you noticed how they use fear to the sheeple people to stomp on our constitution ” our freedom”? Get used to stand in lines get stripped searched it will make you safe. Get used to the government telling you what you can can’t do while they profit on it. Get uses to paying for the debt of criminal bankers and oh let’s put of retirement cuz WE are expected to pay for it so they can spend more. Hey don’t bother appealing anything un just or corrupt it will wind up in the same Judges lap. Get used to cameras on every corner they have to fund their retirement while you work till you die. They are public servants we are Not Theirs. You lose your freedom because your to ” scared ” to stand up for it you’ll get what you deserve. Do you know what the Framers had to go through to give us our freedom? Are you going to so easily let them take it away from you!! Don’t think anything I said couldn’t happen to you.
    GMO labeling geese do your homework!! I’d it’s so good for you why do they want to hide it. That’s the problem with sheeple people they got a bag over your heads. Do some research on the harmful effects of GMO foods. Also do some research on Hiw these big companies are paying lobbiest to make regulations against small health farms to elimate the competition and feed you their GMO as well as abused animals who never see the light of day. Do some research on thru abuse. Maybe some day you will be what you eat. Might scare you what GMO can do to your body. Now let’s bring up big pharmacies whi use their money to pay lobbiest to make laws to FORCE you to take their vaccines. Do your research on the harms of vaccines. He you know Monsanto is being sued for poising people back in the 50s who knows what they are doing now.
    Stop drinking the Koolaid
    On the

    • inoljt says:

      I don’t think that the courts are corrupt…

      • ladybuginca says:

        The courts are corrupt. I first noticed when a lawyer friend of mine now retired let me sit in on hearings and those without money to hire a private attorney were particularly screwed. Behind closed doors abuse.
        Isn’t is also remarkable they will let loose people that said if they let them out they will kill again. Then they can turn around and say ALL. People should be locked up.
        Currently they are moving their political prisoners lol from one prison to another. Reason is once they are set to be transfered they don’t have to count them, or the beds. They are not lowering over crowding and Beian has to know what theyre doing. They are playing musical chair games with them to make it LOOK like they are dealing with the problem the courts created with railroading innocent people and or long unconstitutional sentences

    • Bob Campbell says:

      I totally agree. Well said

  4. LisaforInformedElectorate says:

    Thanks, Rachel for ensuring that the confusing process of ballot measures is CLARIFIED for this issue! EVERYONE: please read the information carefully and WRITE DOWN your vote when you get it clear. Man, this state’s process needs help! 😉

  5. carrotroot says:

    3 strikes laws are extremely punitive, and in many cases people are now serving life sentences for very minor infractions. I voted Yes to change this law.

  6. John Smith says:

    Petty theft does not justify permanent incarceration. End of.

    • Emil says:

      “Petty theft” cannot constitute a strike because it is not a felony. If you think before you speak next time, perhaps you’ll prevent yourself from saying something stupid and misinforming people.

      • ladybuginca says:

        In all fairness to person who mentioned minor crime the gov is working on making laws to nearly every person can be imprisoned for a felony if they want. What a better way to intimidate society to make serfs out of them.
        I remember a lot of kids who wavered during the 60 s eras that are now honest productive citizens. Even then we didn’t have the economic ruin that can be traced back to these same kind of people making these laws. Note to that these judges are ruling under personal bias and over privleged backgrounds who probably think the ret of us are scum while expecting us to pay for their over privileged life style. Question why weren’t these over privileged banksters jailed after ruining the economy or foreclosing on homes they didn’t own. Jon Corazone spelling who stole millions from investors whi said he doesn’t know where the money went who’s buddies are linked to the politicians .
        But God forbid ” if you drive 5 miles over the speed limit. If all these young people of yesterday who messed up who weren’t privileged had to live in today’s crazy judicial system they would have never had the chance to change. Even now some who did change its used against them in back ground checks preventing them from getting jobs. Orr they are accused of something they did not do and held against them to make it look like they did. In short the system is not preventing crime but promoting it with their unconstitutional tactics. They are interpreting the constitution with bias and prejudice.

  7. Rachel says:

    I’m a social worker in a CA prison and help people to get prepared for when they come out. Unfortunately I only meet with them when they are a few months from getting out. Recently I met with a second striker who had been in prison for about 10 years. He had a severe heroin addiction which was the underlining cause of why he went to prison in the first place. When I asked him what type of treatment he had received, he said he hadn’t, nor could I find any programs for him to go to when he got out that didn’t have a huge waiting list. Yet, this man can get out of prison and get caught with $5 worth of drug and be sentenced 25 to life. How can anyone argue that this makes sense?? Sending someone to prison for life for something nonviolent/nonserious for massive amounts of money should never be an option if we are neglecting to put money into preventing people to go to or back to prison in the first place. Currently only 12 of the 33 prisons in California even offer drug treatment yet studies show more often than no crime occurs due to underlining substance abuse issues. And the writer says 3-strikes has resulted in decreases in crime? Crime was going down BEFORE 3-strikes and EVERYWHERE in the US (even more so in states that didn’t have a 3-strikes law). Crime is a complex issue that cannot be solved by a catchy slogan and it is niave to think any different. I hope the author will reconsider their position. The above example I gave is unfortunately the rule rather than the exception.

  8. If you think this law is unfair and unjust and needs to be fixed you vote YES on Prop 36, if you think the law needs to remain status quo (YOU DO NOT WANT IT TO CHANGE), vote NO ON Prop 36. I am voting YES on Prop 36 on Nov 06. Visit my facebook page to see the life of a person freed after nearly 13 in prison under the Three Strikes Law. Please contact me if you have any questions.

  9. Dave in Northridge says:

    You’re kidding here. This proposition was written by the people who WROTE the original law because they realize it screwed up in some major ways. When you say it weakens the law you’re absolutely correct because it throws out some of the petty theft stuff that used to count as a third strike.

    I can certainly understand the impulse to say “You made your bed, now lie in it” to the people who thought this up to begin with, but since they themselves want to fix it, I say let them, and since the legislature CAN’T be involved, this is the only way they can.

    Besides, I’m guessing you don’t know anyone for whom this is a real issue. I taught a student who was fighting a third strike conviction and it obviously affected his work. This is just a bad law (and I’m not even going to discuss the racial/ethnic issues involved). Short of repeal, this is the best we can do with it. YES on 36.

  10. Katrina123 says:

    There will always be criminals, however unless they commit murder, we should not lock them up for life. The state cannot afford to pay for their up keep for the duration of their lives either. Life should be reserved for the most heinous of crimes. Moreover, the three strikes law is not really a deterrent to crime. This law overburdens the criminal system. The money could be best spent on rehabilitation programs that prepare these people for jobs and independence.

    • Katrina123 says:

      Sorry, I forgot to say Vote Yes. If the crime is not heinous, the person should do time and get out. Not stay in forever, this should be reserved for those who commit murder and rape, etc.

    • Anonymous says:

      I dont want to miss vote. I vote no. How could anyone in thier right mind vote enforcement know of the overcrowding in the prisons. And the unfair life sentences. It is an unjust unfair and horrible law.

      • Rachel says:

        Anonymous…a vote no would keep the “unjust unfair and horrible law”. Please vote YES to change the law so that it is more sensible.

  11. Geoff says:

    Your arguments to vote YES are much more convincing than your still valid argument to vote NO. My default on propositions is NO because I agree that it is the legislatures job. In this case our prison system is broken, our jails are overcrowded and overused and, as I understand your comments, the legislature is not even allowed to fix this issue. Bigger changes are obviously needed, but this is at least a step in the right direction.

    • Anonymous says:

      It doesnt look like anyone is interested in change. No one wants to fix the problem. I am sorry but it is horrible. To decide the fate of a loving family member being put away for life. One felody then misdemeanors and they are gone. vote no please

      • inoljt says:

        I’m sure that the victim of a felon would have just as strong, albeit opposite, emotional opposition to this proposition.

      • Rachel says:

        Again anonymous..I’m afraid you have your “no” and “yes” vote confused. A YES vote will make sure that someone cannot go away for life for something minor. Please vote YES to fix the problem.

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